Meet Ligue 1's 10 most exciting youngsters being primed for big moves

Ludovic Blas

There's no doubting France's ability to produce and nuture young talent - but who are the most promising from such a large pool? James Eastham gives you the lowdown

Last summer, Manchester United made Anthony Martial the world's most expensive teenager when they signed him for £36m (and that fee could rise further). Here's who could follow him... 

1. Issa Diop (Toulouse)

 Issa Diop celebrates his goal during the UEFA European Under-19 Championship

FACTFILE

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Centre-back

This tall and powerful centre-back broke into Toulouse's first team last season and is now an automatic starter in Pascal Dupraz’s exciting young side.

Better on the ball than you might imagine for a player of his height (6ft 4in), Diop also poses a threat at attacking set-pieces thanks to good ability in the air. A member of France’s European U19 Championship-winning side in July, he has since been promoted to France's U21 squad ahead of his age, and previously attracted rumours of interest from both Manchester City and Leicester.

2. Kylian Mbappe (Monaco)

France's goalscorer Kylian Mbappe celebrates his goal during the UEFA European Under-19 Championship

FACTFILE

  • Age: 17
  • Position: Striker

Mbappe and PSG striker Jean-Kevin Augustin (who misses out on this list as he is likely to manage only limited appearances for PSG this season) were not only the stars of France’s U19 European Championship-winning side over the summer, but the entire tournament.

The 17-year-old's leggy style and ability to cut in devastatingly from the left wing on his stronger right foot have drawn comparisons with Thierry Henry and Anthony Martial, two similar graduates from Monaco’s outstanding academy. At this stage it's a case of who isn't interested in signing him early: Manchester City allegedly failed with a move, while Liverpool and Barcelona have been linked too (among several others).  

3. Malcom (Bordeaux) 

PSG's Angel Di Maria battles Bordeaux's Malcom for the ball

FACTFILE

  • Age: 19
  • Position: Winger

A Brazil youth international, Malcom joined Bordeaux last January. After six months adapting to life in France, he's started the season in storming form.

Technically excellent and difficult for defenders to catch with and without the ball, he has nailed down the right-wing position in Bordeaux’s 4-4-2 and will be difficult to oust from the team. There is a long tradition of Brazilians shining in Bordeaux colours, so Malcom is in a good place to develop into a top-class talent.

4. Adama Diakhaby (Rennes) 

FACTFILE

  • Age: 20
  • Position: Striker

Picked up from Caen's youth academy, Diakhaby was barely known even by youth scouts across France when the 2016/17 season kicked off. But Rennes coach Christian Gourcuff saw something he liked in the striker during the opening weeks of the campaign, and Diakhaby has rewarded the manager’s faith by scoring a couple of crucial goals off the bench in the first two months of the season.

Tall and lithe, he is difficult to mark and looks a natural finisher. Expect more from this surprise package of a player in Brittany.

5. Ludovic Blas (Guingamp)

FACTFILE

  • Age: 18
  • Position: Attacking midfielder

Answers on a postcard if you can work out what Guingamp teenager Blas’s best position is. Able to operate as a No.6, No.8 or No.10, the 18-year-old starred for France's U19s as a winger over the summer and looks genuinely comfortable in all positions he has played in for club and country.

Blessed with great balance, a smart footballing brain and sharp awareness of team-mates’ positions, he is Guingamp’s most promising youth graduate and the club are already talking about him being a €20 million player in a couple of years’ time if he continues to develop at the same rate. In August, Lyon, Liverpool and Inter were all said to be watching him closely.